Sometimes we forget that the ocean is filled with monsters—giant fish that demand the respect of anglers foolhardy enough to pursue them. Raw power, extreme speed, and relentless endurance define these apex predators, making them the most challenging and rewarding catches in the sea. While this list is far from exhaustive, the large marine game fish species profiled here are widely held as the ultimate sportfishing trophies by anglers around the globe. So whether you're a seasoned veteran looking for a new species to chase or are new to sportfishing and setting goals for the future, these six game fish species will keep you busy for a lifetime's worth of line-ripping thrills.
No game fish species is more iconic or awe-inspiring than the blue marlin. Despite their massive stature—reaching weights well over 1,000 pounds—blue marlins are known to put on incredible aerial displays, breaching clean out of the water and "tail walking" among other stunts. With streamlined bodies of pure muscle, blue marlins pull like crazy and dive deep, testing your tackle and skills as an angler.
Blue marlins are found in all the world's oceans, generally at depths of at least 250 feet. To catch a blue marlin, large live baits and teasers are trolled in wide spreads, often for extremely long distances over deep sea canyons. Fighting a blue marlin is a grueling affair that can often last for hours. The pump-and-reel technique, AKA short sticking, is essential in taming and landing a blue marlin. If you have the opportunity to chase one of these amazing fish, do whatever you can to make it happen. Just be sure to get plenty of rest—you'll need every ounce of energy you have for the fight!
Insane strength and unrivaled stamina make the bluefin tuna one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea. The largest tuna species, bluefins regularly exceed 1,000 pounds, with the world record fish weighing 1,496 pounds. Like with blue marlins, trolling techniques are most effective when pursuing bluefin tuna. But if you can find them feeding on the surface, bluefins can be caught by lobbing live baits or casting artificial lures as well. Bluefin tuna on a popper? Yeah, it's possible.
The frigid waters off the coast of Nova Scotia are home to the largest bluefin tunas in the world, and true behemoths are caught there every year. The canyons off the mid-Atlantic coast also hold promising numbers of bluefin tuna, though they don't grow quite as large as those farther north. As an added bonus to their epic fighting, bluefin tuna are arguably the best tasting fish in the sea, especially if sashimi is your thing. That makes them #2 on our large marine game fish list.
To the uninitiated, swordfish and marlins seem like the same thing—but they aren't. Don’t confuse these large marine game fish species. Swordfish have a single dorsal fin that extends up from their back whereas marlins have a longer dorsal fin that extends down the length of their back like a ridge. Swordfish also have a wider, flatter bill than marlins do, which is why you'll often hear them called "broadbills."
Successfully finding and catching swordfish involves many of the same strategies as blue marlin fishing but with a few distinctions. Swordfish spend the majority of their daytime hours deep in the ocean, anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 feet below the surface. They come to the surface to hunt at night, which is when most anglers stage their attack. Trolling techniques are used to catch swordfish with squid—both real and artificial—being the top performing bait. On the line, this game fish species is extremely powerful, taking any lucky angler who hooks one for a long, muscle-pumping ride.
Straight out of prehistoric times, tarpon are hardcore survivors and are unlike any other fish species. They're covered in silver armor-like scales that make them nearly bulletproof, and believe it or not, tarpon can actually breathe air, allowing them to survive in waters with low oxygen content. Although not quite as large as the billfish or tuna on our list, tarpon can grow to over 8 feet long and weigh over 250 pounds. So why are they on our large marine game fish list? Well, when hooked, tarpon are acrobatic freaks, putting on one of the greatest aerial shows of any fish. The real challenge is keeping them on the line during their thrashing leaps, as their mouths are rock hard and getting a solid hookset is exceedingly difficult.
Tarpon are found in temperate and tropical waters along both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and throughout the Gulf of Mexico with some of the best tarpon fishing found along the southern coasts of Florida. Unlike the other species on our list, tarpon can be caught in a wide variety of environments outside the typical blue water zones. Some of the most exciting tarpon fishing is done stalking and sight casting on the flats, either with spinning or fly fishing tackle. But no matter what you use to hook them, you'll never forget the first time a giant tarpon takes to the air at the sting of your hook!
Although considerably smaller than the other billfish species, sailfish more than make up for their lack of size with sheer face-melting speed. This game fish species is arguably the fastest fish in the world, capable of reaching 68 miles per hour—that's cheetah fast. Trolling teasers and live or strip baits is most effective for catching sailfish, and they can even be taken on flies and pitched lures when the fish rise into the spread.
Sailfish are found in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world, with high numbers found off the southeast coasts of Florida. Sailfish tend to stay in the offshore blue water, but the fact that they regularly move into nearshore waters has earned them the reputation for being one of the more accessible large marine game fish species to pursue.
If you want to go after the biggest, baddest fish in the sea, you can't forget about sharks—specifically mako sharks. These voracious predators are built to deliver punishment, and when you hook one, that's exactly what you'll get. Makos are thought to be the fastest sharks, capable of swimming 60 miles per hour. But they are perhaps most well-known for their nutty ability to fly out of the water, easily clearing 20 feet multiple times in a row. Ever see a 600 pound critter fly through the air? You're in for a treat.
Mako sharks are widespread in range, found throughout the world's oceans in the temperate and tropical zones. Makos are also one of the best eating sharks as long as you know how to properly clean and care for the meat. Just make sure your crew is on their A game when landing a shark—these powerful, toothy beasts will tear you up in the blink of an eye if you aren't careful.
Gear Up For Your Next Adventure
No matter which large marine game fish species you pursue, you’ll need every advantage you can get. These monsters will put up a fight, and you’d better be ready. Shop Huk Gear’s collection of high performance fishing apparel to help ensure you’re at the top of your game when the strikes start coming.